A Gallic greeting;Primary;Subject of the week;Modern languages

6th March 1998 at 00:00
C'EST FACILE COMME 'BONJOUR!'. Produced by the London Borough of Richmond. Nelson Teacher's resource pack pound;75 + VAT Games pack pound;35 + VAT C'est facile comme 'Bonjour!' is a welcome addition to the growing bank of primary French language materials for non-specialist teachers. Ringbinders allow you to add your own resources. Worksheets, flashcards and games are uncluttered and attractive.

The cassette recordings are clear and spoken by native speakers at a reasonable speed. And while the listening activities are stimulating and varied, the choice of topics - myself, family, pets, food and drink, sports and parts of the body - is less inspiring.

C'est facile comme 'Bonjour!' offers a range of activities and materials that could prove valuable, but its methods for presenting and practising new language are not always made sufficiently explicit.

The authors sensibly suggest children are taught to ask as well as answer questions from the start. Then they confuse the issue, by sticking to the perceived wisdom of teaching "je" and "tu" forms before "il" and "elle", when the latter are easier for the beginner. This approach leads to children using "je" when they are clearly talking about somebody else.

Repetition is important but is not, in itself, a sign of understanding. Asking children for the translation of a new word into English can create early dependency on such translations. There are more effective ways of checking understanding in the target language, such as graded questions and answers.

As in many courses, speaking and listening are emphasised at the expense of reading and writing. Why deprive children of additional channels of language? Why withhold written language as a valuable means of supporting learning and why only colour in a worksheet when it could be used to develop language skills?

Written language might not be important in an acquisition context but in the classroom it is crucial for supporting teaching and learning. Worksheets do not move children beyond the reading or writing of isolated items of vocabulary and some short phrases.

And of course there is the problem of progression. As the pack is aimed at the non-specialist, it would have been better to present materials in clear sequence, allowing children to progress in a systematic and meaningful way. Simply "dipping in and out of the resource pack", as the authors suggest, is likely to result in precisely those random experiences teachers should hope to avoid.

Beate Poole is a lecturer in languages in education at the Institute of Education, London

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